30 Replies to “Kenneth Chang’s NYTimes Front Page Story on ID

  1. 1
    Lurker says:

    Does anyone have some idea what Dr. Lenski’s “new and surprising function” in the E. coli is?

    Whatever it is, I’m curious if it came about naturally (evolution) or if humans had a helping hand in the process (ID) – and more importantly how you’d be able to know?

  2. 2

    The question of contamination would also arise if some irreducibly complex machine appeared that had not been witnessed in this population before.

  3. 3
    Lutepisc says:

    Question from a non-biologist: why contamination, rather than evidence of design appearing here? Where and how would you expect design to appear? Thanks.

  4. 4
    taciturnus says:

    “At the heart of the debate over intelligent design is this question: Can a scientific explanation of the history of life include the actions of an unseen higher being?”

    This way of framing the question, it seems to me, misunderstands the intent of ID. The purpose of ID is not to *explain* either life or its design. It is to *detect* design in living organisms. ID offers no explanations of design (as in how the design was originally conceived) or conclusions about the nature or existence of any designers.

    Imagine the following question:

    “At the heart of the debate over the Search for Extraterrestial Intelligence (SETI), is this question: Can a scientific explanation of interstellar radio signals include the actions of hypothetical aliens?”

    Similar to the first question, this question misunderstands SETI. The point of SETI is not to explain aliens or how they might transmit radio signals. It is to detect aliens through radio signals, the way ID detects design in life.

    Am I right about this? Or have I misunderstood the intent of ID myself?

  5. 5
    Bombadill says:

    *sigh… great. Yet another article to shake my faith in I.D.. 🙁 I didn’t realize there were answers to the irreducible complexity thing. Man I wish I had the time to figure all of this out.

  6. 6
    Bombadill says:

    Could someone explain to me the process by which a digestive enzyme evolves into a blood clotting enzyme? cookz@comcast.net

  7. 7
    Dan S. says:

    Bombadil (your namesake, by the way, is my favorite character of all Tolkien’s works: it’s simply unfair that they left him out of the movie. Forget this whole evolution/id clash – that’s a real outrage . . .) –
    the thing is that ID really has no credibility in the mainstream science community. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong – when continental drift was first proposed, it was pretty much universally mocked – but it does mean that the evidence has failed to convince virtually all of the folks who do this for a living. (Ideas about vast Darwinian conspiracies are really just silly – this kind of stuff really only happens when corporate interests are at stake (DDT, tobacco, etc.), involves far fewer people, much tighter control, much better lawyers, and still falls apart pretty quickly). The theory of plate tectonics became universally accepted after decades of gathering evidence – new discoveries, new models, new technology – finally made an overwhelming case that this crazy idea – the solid earth really a collection of plates whizzing about?!!? really did explain things better than the competition. Unfortunately, instead of quietly, doggedly taking this path, ID – whatever it was to begin with, and whether by accident or design – has gotten sucked into the fight to boot evolution out of schools, as well as a much broader moral crusade.
    If you’re interested, please let me recommend one very good book critical of ID, Kenneth Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God: A scientist’s search for common ground between God and evolution.” – they guy mentioned in the article. The first half of the book discusses evolution and scientific challenges to ID, while the second half deals with his conviction that God is not just compatible with evolution, but in fact we have a far grander vision of him through it – I don’t know if that part would be of interest to you or not. If it is – if your faith in ID is tied into your faith in God, I would echo Dr. Lenski’s comment at the end of the article. If you build your faith on facts – that God makes lightning, or disease, in earlier days – then you’re building a church not on rock but on sand; most theologians avoid such a God of the gaps argument (we can’t explain it, so God must have done it), which is what many people, rightly or wrongly, see ID as. Instead, they prefer to rest their faith on faith – the evidence not of the eye, but of the heart If this isn’t an issue for you, um . . . never mind. But anyway, the book is a quite readible (if a few years old) look of some more of the arguments.

    “”Imagine you’re an archaeologist and you’re looking at an inscription, and you say, ‘Well, sorry, that looks like it’s intelligent but we can’t invoke an intelligent cause because, as a matter of method, we have to limit ourselves to materialistic processes,’ ” Dr. Meyer said. “That would be nuts.”
    That’s true. But that’s because archaeologists look at things they know were directly made by people. Indeed, at the far end of things, it becomes a big problem – is this funny-lookin’ rock just knocked around, or it it a primitive tool? – and folks end up having to do all sorts of experimental archaeology banging rocks around and looking at stones in rivers, etc. to try to figure it out, and taking rocks and chopping bones or wood or cutting plants to look for the distinctive microscopic finishes that would indicate if the old rock had been used that way, and etc. But I’m going off track – we don’t know scientifically that life was made by an intelligence. So far, going by methodological naturalism – looking for natural causes – has worked pretty well. Can you think of science trying to deal with the non-material world? It can’t. It needs things it can observe, touch, measure, manipulate, etc. If evidence pops up that seems to point to design, eventually, as with plate tectonics, folks will come around. ‘Til then, though . . .

    “Mainstream scientists say that the scientific method is indeed restricted to the material world, because it is trying to find out how it works. Simply saying, “it must have been designed,” they say, is simply a way of not tackling the hardest problems.”

    And I think this is something that worries a lot of scientists concerned with the issue. Just as from a certain religious viewpoint, ID seems to make faith rely – needlessly – on ignorance, on gaps in scientific knowledge that may be quickly filled, for many scientists it seems to short-circuit intellectually curiosity, the search for knowledge and understanding that has led to so many of the miracles – and disasters – of the modern age. It seems to threaten to shut down an journey that is just beginning, based not on clear evidence, but a map that – rightly or wrongly – says, Here be God. If that’s the case, and if there are clues are meant to be seen (Miller argues that there are not, in order that we can have a truly free choice to believe or not) then the more we learn, the more obvious it will become. If it’s not – whether there was a Designer who may have made the rules all those endless eons ago, and then stepped back, as Behe suggests, or one who works in ways beyond the ability of science to discern, or even no one at all – then prematurely accepting ID would mean we had turned back from a truly great journey – with who knows how many discoveries not made by children who grew up doing something else – for years to come, perhaps not setting out again for a generation or more.

    I have no idea how a digestive enzyme evolves into a blood clotting enzyme (it’s so frustrating to lack the time – and most of the training – to understand this stuff except in the simplest of forms! If I just had time to read through the literature . . .) It does look like a lot of things get co-opted like this . . .

  8. 8
    Lutepisc says:

    Dan, thank you for your thorough and painstaking response. I knew of Kenneth Miller’s name, but wasn’t familiar with his writings. I followed your link…and I’m impressed!

    I’m also impressed with ID, though, and I suspect that, as someone else has already posted, we’ll eventually end up with some sort of synthesis of the two.

    Note, though, that Behe is correct in distinguishing his “irreducible complexity” argument from a “God of the gaps” argument. It seems to me that the “co-option” defense to it resembles the “epicycles” defense to retrograde motion, as Ptolemy gave way to Copernicus.

    Regarding my own questions, above, I don’t see why, if some sort of “irreducible complexity” emerges in the laboratory–which is not explainable by contamination or human intervention–it couldn’t be explained as design. Until we have Dr. Lenski’s results, it makes for an interesting thought experiment.

    Bombadill, you may be right about the limited scope of ID. Perhaps the “scientific” piece is limited to identifying/detecting design. Perhaps questions about when and where design might emerge are actually theological questions, since they take the form of questions about the designer. I’m new at this…so I don’t know.

  9. 9
    Lutepisc says:

    Oops. Sorry, Taciturnus, I see that you were the one who posted about the limited scope of ID. My bad.

  10. 10
    crandaddy says:

    To be fair, Dr. Lenski’s claim that the E. coli in his experiment have evolved a novel function may be completely true and may end up as proof that blind material forces can result in such evolutionary changes. However, there are considerations that need to be made with regard to this claim and its impact on intelligent design in nature. First, since Dr. Lenski will not yet disclose the type of change that allegedly occurred, we do not know if the change exhibits irreducible complexity. If the change is irreducibly complex, then what was the structure before it assumed its present form? What was the function of this previous structure? Was it necessary, vestigial, or did it have no function at all? If the structure had no function at all, then it seems funny to me that the organism would carry it around all this time just so it could one day evolve an advantageous function. The useless structure would have to have provided no substantial disadvantage to the organism, which seems to be, at least to me, a tall order, given that evolution could just as easily have gotten rid of it or at least altered it so that it could not eventually achieve a useful function. In this last instance, the fingerprint of design seems all too apparent. In any case, I’m sure Dr. Lenski did not start the experiment, let it collect dust for fifteen years, and then look at it and say, “Oh my goodness, look at this!”. I’m sure, if he takes his project seriously, he followed it closely and kept careful records of all significant developements that occured. If irreducible complexity did, indeed, occur by way of blind evolutionary processes, he should be able to give science the first detailed, step-by-step account of how this phenomenon can occur in at least one instance. I eagerly await the full disclosure of his research and findings.

    It is also of substantial import to note that ID is not intrinsically anti-evolution. Science has made quite clear that organisms change over time. Dr. Dembski, himself, has noted that information gets shuffled around. Also in line with Dr. Dembski’s claims is that if you look long and hard enough, random natural events will occasionally produce phenomena that are very unlikely but not so unlikely that they cannot reasonably occur. Basketball players have made baskets from the opposite end of the court. Golfers have hit holes-in-one. Nobody believes me, but I once flipped a penny which landed on its side. This line of argument has routinely been used against proponents of ID, but it can work the other way, too. Evidently, Dr. Lenski has observed E. coli bacteria evolve a novel function in his lab. OK, fine, let’s play with that. It is conceivable that after many, many numerous generations of an organism (and bacteria of all varieties reproduce very, very rapidly), a random event may cause a bacterium to gain a slight selective advantage over its kin. And then another may occur, and then another, and so forth and so on. As an ID proponent, I don’t have a problem with that, and there are several others like me. I do, however, have a problem with the claim that a bacterium can evolve into a human via blind evolutionary processes. As Dr. Dembski, I’m sure, will agree, there is a limit to how far blind evolution can go. Random chance has the ability to take complexity only so far, and then it starts to plateau. This is in line with the theory of Complex Specified Information for which Dr. Dembski is so well known. Dr. Lenski may have observed a novel function evolve in his pet germs, but I think it poses about as much of a threat to stopping ID as a fly poses to stopping a freight train. My two cents.

    David

  11. 11
    PaV says:

    It seems as if Bombadill and Dan S. need a little bolstering. Let’s look at the article. (It would take a paper of 15 to 20 pages to adequately debunk all the nonsense that the author takes for granted. I’m going to pick and choose to keep it somewhat small.):

    “Nowhere has evolution been more powerful than in its prediction that there must be a means to pass on information from one generation to another. Darwin did not know the biological mechanism of inheritance, but the theory of evolution required one.”

    Comment: This statement is almost absurd. Every scientist in Darwin’s days accepted that there was a principle of inheritance. What kind of prediction is that? Not only did Darwin NOT know the biological mechanism of inheritance, he was no where near being right. He assumed there was “blending inheritance,” (of mother and father parts) and assumed that inherited traits were transmitted by a change in the sexual organs themselves. And need I point out that between the first and the sixth edition of Origins, Mendel came up with the right answer. So when the author says ‘predict’, this is just wild stuff. In fact, Mendelian genetics “saved” Darwinism because of its “particulate” form of inheritance. But as William Bateson pointed out, this leaves unanswered from where the “particulate” forms arose. This is basically an “information theory” critique of Darwinism coming at the turn of the 20th Century. You see, ID has been around for a long time. 🙂

    “The discovery of DNA, the sequencing of the human genome, the pinpointing of genetic diseases and the discovery that a continuum of life from a single cell to a human brain can be detected in DNA are all a result of evolutionary theory.”

    Comment: I can’t begin to understand this sentence and thought. All the above are the result of scientists investigating biological reality, but to think that evolutionary thinking pushed it along is really quite some stretch of the imagination. These results are directly due to advances in technology; not on evolutionary theory, per se. ID is the result of this same progress in technology: e.g., the scanning electron microscope and the unbelieveable power to decipher genomes.

    “Darwin may have been the classic scientific observer. He observed that individuals in a given species varied considerably, variations now known to be caused by mutations in their genetic code.”

    Comment: With typical Darwinian certainty, that which is to be demonstrated is simply assumed. We know there are mutation; we know there are changes in DNA; we know that organisms change; but, we don’t know that the mutations directly–and randomly–bring about the organismal change. Ronald Fisher would argue that his mathematics prove that this could happen. Fred Hoyle would argue that Fisher’s mathematics are poppycock. Sewell Wright, though separately deriving the same mathematical formula as Fisher, didn’t even agree with Fisher’s interpretation of that formula. So, the jury is still out. This isn’t settled ‘case law’ as the author implies.

    “He also realized that constraints of food and habitat sharply limited population growth; not every individual could survive and reproduce.”

    Comment: And so did Patrick Matthews in 1825.

    “The finches that Darwin observed in the Galápagos Islands provide the most famous example of this process [of Natural Selection]. The species of finch that originally found its way to the Galápagos from South America had a beak shaped in a way that was ideal for eating seeds. But once arrived on the islands, that finch eventually diversified into 13 species. The various Galápagos finches have differently shaped beaks, each fine-tuned to take advantage of a particular food, like fruit, grubs, buds or seeds.

    Such small adaptations can arise within a few generations. Darwin surmised that over millions of years, these small changes would accumulate, giving rise to the myriad of species seen today.”

    Comment: It would be best to read Jonathan Well’s account of this in “Icons of Evolution.” But suffice it to say that: (1) these 13 ‘different’ species are in fact found to interbreed; and that (2) the beak sizes of the finch are found to vary with the amount of rainfall over a period of a decade or two, not the “millions of year” that Darwin “predicted.”

    There’s an article coming out in Nature about how they interbred Texan and Floridian panthers so as to help out the Florida panthers who were near dying out. It was a very successful program. Not only did the panthers successfully breed, but their offspring (the hybrids) also were able to successfully breed. Not only that, but the panthers are much more healthy now.

    This runs completely counter to Darwinian expectations in the sense that Darwin would expect the more variable form (i.e., either to Texan or Floridian panther) to be heartier and healthier than the mixed form. It simultaneously throws into question the whole idea of naturalist’s idea of what a species is, i.e., both the Texan and Florida panther, because of their successful hybrid breeding, demonstrate themselves to be the SAME species (as it [species] is conventually understood.)

    “The number of organisms that, in those long periods, ended up being preserved as fossils is infinitesimal. As a result, the evolutionary record – the fossils of long-extinct organisms found preserved in rock – is necessarily incomplete, and some species appear to burst out of nowhere.

    Some supporters of intelligent design have argued that such gaps undermine the evidence for evolution.”

    Comment: It was Darwin himself who said that if the “missing” intermediate forms were not found as scientists uncovered more and more fossils, then this would be a great argument against his theory. And thus it is. And with the Cambrian explosian, the problem gets even worse because Darwinists have one of two avenues open to them: (1) they can demonstrate that prior to the Cambrian explosion we have a whole host of “intermediate forms” giving rise to the phyla seen in the Cambrian, but now, this undoes Darwin’s theory because Darwin “predicted” that these changes would take place over millions and millions of years, and, in his estimation (literally) it would be of the order of geological time equivalent to that of the Cambrian to the present; i.e., 550 million years, and not the 50-60 million years, at the most, betweeen the Silurian and the Cambrian. Or, (2) they don’t find the “intermediate forms” and the game is up.

    For instance, during the Cambrian explosion a half a billion years ago, life diversified to shapes with limbs and shells from jellyfish-like blobs, over a geologically brief span of 30 million years.

    “But molecular biologists have found genes that control the function of other genes, switching them on and off. Small mutations in these controller genes could produce new species.”

    Comment: But, per Dembski’s Law of Conservation of Information, where does the NEW information come from? So maybe we can get smaller or larger, or pinker or hairier, species. But to cross the species boundary, new information, not just juggled information, is needed. In addition, new fossils are being found and scientists now know that many changes occurred in the era before the Cambrian – a period that may have lasted 100 million years – providing more time for change.

    “The Cambrian explosion, said David J. Bottjer, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Southern California and president of the Paleontological Society, is ‘a wonderful mystery in that we don’t know everything yet.’

    ‘I think it will be just a matter of time before smart people will be able to figure a lot more of this out,’ Dr. Bottjer said. ‘Like any good scientific problem.'”

    Comment: Tell me, what’s the difference between saying that we detect design in biological organisms but as yet are unable to precisely locate the way in which this may have happened, and the statement that Dr. Bottjer makes? For example, simply substitute “Intelligent Design” for “Cambrian explosion” in the above quote and see what it sounds like.

    So Dan S. and Bombadill, many of these articles by the entrenched Darwinian establishment simply regurgitates that conventional wisdom inside of the Darwinian kingdom. But when these claims are examined closely, unfortunately, the Emperor is usually found to be without clothing. ID is on solid, but conceptually thin, ground. But as technology continues, its footing will strengthen–IF the Darwinists allow it.

  12. 12
    mattdunn says:

    Actually, contamination isn’t a very good ad hoc explanation of some new ‘machine’ being observed in the E. coli work. Not only are there control cultures, but because every 100 or so generations, cells are frozen. Therefore you can ‘resurrect’ (no pun intended) ancestors and see if they were indeed the ancestors of the new ‘machine’.

    Also, why praise this article? Eventhough it plays the ID game of ‘teach the controversy’, it seems that every response biology gives to ID objections in the article is quite reasonable. I thought the discussion of clotting was particularly well done. And the MtRushmore bit. If we found a cell with the faces of four presidents on it, then biologists should certainly start looking for a designer. Or at least some schmuck on Ebay who would by the cell for thousands of dollars kind of like that tortilla with the image of Jesus.

  13. 13
    Dan S. says:

    “If we found a cell with the faces of four presidents on it, then biologists should certainly start looking for a designer.”

    And believe me, if we ever find a stretch of DNA shared by all living creatures (or even just one) that contains a coded message reading “Made in [the intergalactic equivalent of Hong Kong],” or “G’ypuki/asi’s 8th grade science project,” or “Product of God’s Workshop” – I will so be on you guys’ side . . .

  14. 14
    Dan S. says:

    My little comment popped right up, but the one I sent before it didn’t? I’m splitting it in two – if I mess up, apologies for cluttering the place up with multiple posts. It’s late . . .
    #1 State of emperor’s clothing: views differ.

    >Comment: This statement is almost absurd (re: prediction of inheritance

    From time to time the Times does pretty good science reporting. This wasn’t one of its best – it seems like Chang generally does more spaceships and weather sort of stuff . . More clearly, natural selection predicts a certain kind of inheritance – in fact, Darwin’s attempt to explain heredity clashed with the rest of his theory – it wouldn’t work at all with blending inheritance – and was, as pointed out, way off.. Mendel did indeed come up with the right answer; my understanding is that few people paid much attention to his findings, and completely missed their significance, and that Darwin did not appear to know of them, but I may be mistaken. Some moron suggested he work with – what was it, hawkweeds? – which don’t follow the standard rules, and he eventually gave up.

    Genetics did indeed save Darwin’s theory – it turned out that life did work that way, and the various competing theories of evolution – Lamarkism, aristogenesis, etc. just got swept away. In other words, Darwin came up with a theory that required that inheritance work a certain way, a way nobody (besides poor Gregor) thought it did, and a couple of decades later it turns out that’s exactly how it works. Pretty spiffy.
    Where did these particulate forms arise? We don’t exactly know – but scientists are working at it, like worked at inheritance, DNA, etc. I’m bewilderd as to how you see this as an information theory critique?

    I’m not clear if DNA, etc. is a result of evolutionary theory. It’s hard to say what path research would have taken without some broadly accepted idea, at least, of evolution.

  15. 15
    Dan S. says:

    Ok, I can’t figure out what’s going on.
    Will check back later. Apologies if there are big chunks of my ridiculously long comment scattered all over this thread. Us evolutionists, we’re just messy. It’s that darn atheism. No standards whatsoever.

    I over-write so badly . . . if I was just getting paid by the word . . .

  16. 16
    PaV says:

    Dan S. “And believe me, if we ever find a stretch of DNA shared by all living creatures (or even just one) that contains a coded message reading “Made in [the intergalactic equivalent of Hong Kong],” or “G’ypuki/asi’s 8th grade science project,” or “Product of God’s Workshop” – I will so be on you guys’ side .”

    Please tell us, Dan, do you hold the SETI people to the same standard? I await your reply.

  17. 17
    PaV says:

    Dan S.: “I’m bewilderd as to how you see this as an information theory critique?”

    Comment: Bateson’s challenge to Darwinism–a challenge that made Bateson eventually abandon Darwin’s theory–was where did these “alleles” come from. How did they develop? Well, we know that “alleles” are information-carriers. So, translating his question, it becomes, Where did this information come from? Now, part of Mendelian theory is the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium which states that the “total” number of alleles in a population doesn’t change over time; frequencies change, but not the “total” number of alleles. So, if “alleles” are simply being shifted around, how, then, do you come up with new ones? It’s a critique that still applies.

    Dan S.: “I’m not clear if DNA, etc. is a result of evolutionary theory. It’s hard to say what path research would have taken without some broadly accepted idea, at least, of evolution.”

    Comment: From my perspective, evolutionary theory was hijacked by Mayr, Dobzhansky and Huxley. In the 30’s, evolutionary biology had the opportunity to follow someone who was onto something concrete and reasonable: Richard Goldschmidt. Yet, because he denied that Darwinism can explain macroevolution–and he had forceful, field-study filled, arguments to show why not–he was rejected. For over 60 years, evolution has gone down the wrong road, probably because of a predilection for materialist interpretation on the part of many biologists.

    Dan S.: “In other words, Darwin came up with a theory that required that inheritance work a certain way, a way nobody (besides poor Gregor) thought it did, and a couple of decades later it turns out that’s exactly how it works. Pretty spiffy.”

    Comment: This sounds very similar to Gould’s argument in his “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory,” which I happen to be reading now. I haven’t thought too much about Gould’s contention, but, off-hand, it strikes me as overly-generous. Darwin was wrong about inheritance, was forced to change his theory to deal with the problems that “blending inheritance” presented, and eventually had to be bailed out of the problems that the Hardy-Weinberg Law present to “allelic” change in populations by geneticist’s use of the questionable mathematics of R.E. Fisher. All that said, I therefore don’t see how this makes Darwin a great visionary.

  18. 18
    Bombadill says:

    PaV and Dan (and others), I want to thank your for your knowledge and insight on these issues. If I may be a bit transparent for a moment… as a Christian, I had always taken for granted the Biblical account of creation (as I’ve seen compelling evidence to support believing the Bible to be infallible from cover to cover). But, at the same time, I’ve always been very objective and honest about seeking truth regardless of the conclusion it may lead to. So, you can understand my dilemna. I want to somehow reconcile what science observes and what the Bible teaches… but, I want to embrace the truth no matter what. Needless to say, I feel like I’m caught up in a whirlwind of information and voices and I just want to settle this issue in my own mind. Anyway, I’m learning so much.

  19. 19
    jimbo says:

    Bombadil –

    I agree with Dan S. that you should not let your faith be hostage to this or that fact or interpretation thereof. Despite what the more extreme partisan hacks like Dawkins say, science cannot answer metaphysical claims. They just perform the usual positivist trick of declaring any question science cannot answer as illegitimate. (In their mental map of the universe, they just mark certain areas “Here there be dragons” and leave it at that…) I take Micheal Behe’s view: even though he’s a Christian, he doesn’t think a materialist explanation for the complexity of life is absolutely inconcievable, or would disprove his religion; he just thinks that the conventional RM/NS explanation is inadequete to explain the structures he sees in the cell.

    That being said, though, you should remember that the same is not true for the “other side”: Dawkins, et. al. see themselves as needing to defend RM/NS to the death because they cannot allow for even the hint of a designer. They defend darwinism, for all it manifest flaws and inadequacies, because it’s the only game in town.

  20. 20
    DaveScot says:

    SETI contrasted with ID points out how hypocritical the whole situation is.

    Nobody bats an eye at the digital signal processing techniques used to discriminate between intelligent and naturally occurring modulation in electromagnetic radiation originating outside the solar system. Nobody seriously doubts we won’t be able to tell intelligent from non-intelligent modulation if and when we see it. SETI is fine science seeking to answer a big question: Are we alone in the universe.

    Yet all hell breaks loose if we look at the design of living things for signs of non-human intelligence. Why?

  21. 21
    Dan S. says:

    Bombadil – best of luck! I hope you find what you see, wherever it may be.

    ****
    DaveScot: “Yet all hell breaks loose if we look at the design of living things for signs of non-human intelligence. Why?”

    As far as I can tell, two reasons.

    1) Scientists agree that we can tell intelligent from non-intelligent modulation, and presumably agree on how we can do it (I assume? I know almost nothing about this.). As you pount out, nobody seriously doubts we’ll be able to tell the difference. The vast majority of scientists do not believe these two conditions have been met in ID’s case.

    2) There isn’t a battle over whether or not schoolkids should be taught that we’ve detected a message from the aliens (or even that we’ve maybe detetcted one, or that there is a controversy). SETI isn’t even pushing for schools to teach both sides of the issue (maybe that whole pulsar thing was just a big coverup and it was little green men after all!)

  22. 22
    Dan S. says:

    While “I hope you find what you see” has a certain interesting ring to it, what I was trying to say was:

    Bombadil – best of luck! I hope you find what you seek, wherever it may be.

  23. 23
    Dan S. says:

    “Darwin was wrong about inheritance, was forced to change his theory to deal with the problems that “blending inheritance” presented . . . . All that said, I therefore don’t see how this makes Darwin a great visionary.”

    The big point to me still seems that the theory required particulate inheritance, Darwin tied himself in knots trying to figure out how to make it work with the best model of heredity he could come up with – and I get the impression he was not very happy with it at all – and then science (re)discovered that inheritance was particulate. Pretty spiffy. Yeah, he missed one, but given his overall performance – not too shoddy.

    I know almost nothing about the issues discretely hidden in the ellipses. Will try to learn more about it.

  24. 24
    Dan S. says:

    #3
    Hoyle was pretty bright, but wrong a lot of the time. A steady state universe, dinosaurs dying from space-born illness (oh, but so close!), flu from outer space, archaeopteryx a hoax – [shakes head] – although to be fair, I don’t know if all of that was him, as opposed to supporters and disciples . . .

    > And so did Patrick Matthews in 1825. [referring to Malthusian insights]

    Huh? I don’t get it. Have no clue who he was or what the significance of this comment is. Explain?

    >the beak sizes of the finch are found to vary with the amount of rainfall over a period of a decade or two, not the “millions of year” that Darwin “predicted.”

    So evolution is even better than Darwin thought?
    The thing here is that conditions are shifting back and forth, so selection pressures for beak size are probably averaging out, while easily available niches are already filled.

  25. 25
    Dan S. says:

    #7 >But to cross the species boundary, new information, not just juggled information, is needed
    Why?
    I’ve never understood this fixation on information. It’s become a mantra that doesn’t really relate to reality . . .

    ” Tell me, what’s the difference between saying that we detect design in biological organisms but as yet are unable to precisely locate the way in which this may have happened, and the statement that Dr. Bottjer makes? For example, simply substitute “Intelligent Design” for “Cambrian explosion” in the above quote and see what it sounds like.”

    Well, it’s hopeful but not unreasonable to say that we’re going to find out more about the Cambrian explosion, especially since there’s been a whole lot of new things learned in the last (very) few decades. It’s possible we won’t, that we’ll hit this utter wall with no new finds, no new interpretations, game basically over, man – but that seems relatively unlikely. Additionally, there’s a general consensus that we have learned about the Cambrian, although there’s a whole lot of debate over what we’ve learned and what it means. At this point, the vast majority of scientists working in the relevant fields don’t think we detect design in biological organisms. They may be wrong, or they may be right but at one point we will detect design – but this still makes it a pretty different statement. But indeed, I do think it’s a matter of time before smart people figure out a lot more about ID. Personally, I’m pretty sure that they’ll figure out stuff that continues to demonstrate (non-ID) evolutionary theory explaining the evidence, and ID failing to. We will see. Since ID isn’t just currently far out of the mainstream, but arguably isn’t acting like a science, it’s hard to say what smart people doing ID will figure out.

  26. 26
    PaV says:

    Dan S.: “> And so did Patrick Matthews in 1825. [referring to Malthusian insights]

    Huh? I don’t get it. Have no clue who he was or what the significance of this comment is. Explain?”

    Comment: He basically hit on the idea of natural selection–not based on Malthus’s work–way ahead of Darwin; though, he didn’t see the “creative” side of NS—that’s what the Darwinists say.

    Here’s a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Matthew

    Dan S.:”>the beak sizes of the finch are found to vary with the amount of rainfall over a period of a decade or two, not the “millions of year” that Darwin “predicted.”

    So evolution is even better than Darwin thought?
    The thing here is that conditions are shifting back and forth, so selection pressures for beak size are probably averaging out, while easily available niches are already filled.”

    Comment: Darwin insisted on gradualism: “natura non facit saltus” (nature doesn’t make jumps). This is inconsistent with his expectations. The more likely answer is along the lines that environmental factors affect development in an inheritable way: meaning that the finches’ genetic material has a built in mechanism allowing it to adapt to changing envirnomental conditions.

    Regarding Hoyle: His “steady-state” universe was due to his aversion to the “Big Bang”. (He coined the term, by the way) His aversion was due to the close connection between the Big Bang and ‘creatio ex nihilo’. He was an atheist/agnostic. He nonetheless considered Fisher’s mathematical work to be faulty, and, with it, Darwinian theory. So, he proposed a theory of panspermia–those aliens again. Gets us back to SETI, doesn’t it? See, we can accept intelligent beings out there; we just simply have a hard time with an omnipotent being. It scares us.

    Regarding Darwin and Origins: One can’t but respect the hard work and serious thought that went into the writing of the Origins. And natural selection as a basis for adaptation–and even small scale change–of organisms, it seems to me, is tenable, and thus quite a contribution by Darwin. It’s just that he was wrong when it came to the big picture (marcroevolution), and he was wrong in a big way. Hopefully science can recognize and accept this, and then move on to more fruitful theories.

    Finally, Dan, (and Bombadil), we should all seek the truth–the truth shall set us free. Darwinism, however, doesn’t seem logical. ID does seem logical. What has made the growth of ID possible is precisely our growth in our knowledge about complexity. I strongly feel that the answer as to whether ID is a viable explanation or whether something along the lines of RM+NS explains change in biological forms will come from a fuller understanding of the genome. It is staggering to think that geneticists basically recognize only a small percentage of DNA. It’s knowledge that verges on complete ignorance. Since DNA is a code–hence a viable carrier of information–as we learn more and more about it, the answers should more and more become apparent. I’m putting my money on something along the lines of ID.

    Sorry for the long posts; but I felt that some issues raised were better addressed then left up in the air.

  27. 27
    blockheadster says:

    “It is staggering to think that geneticists basically recognize only a small percentage of DNA.”

    You guys should learn about microRNAs, RNAi and the RNA world. Genetics deals with observable mutations. Many miRNAs are being found that genetics missed.

    Science, baby !

  28. 28
    orion says:

    Dan S.: Scientists agree that we can tell intelligent from non-intelligent modulation, and presumably agree on how we can do it (I assume? I know almost nothing about this.). As you pount out, nobody seriously doubts we’ll be able to tell the difference. The vast majority of scientists do not believe these two conditions have been met in ID’s case.

    Scientists need to explain why they accept one and not the other. Scientific consensus is not an explanation.

    orion

  29. 29
    Dan S. says:

    “He basically hit on the idea of natural selection–not based on Malthus’s work–way ahead of Darwin”:

    “As nature, in all her modifications of life, has a power of increase far beyond what is needed to supply the place of what falls by Time’s decay, those individuals who possess not the requisite strength, swiftness, hardihood, or cunning, fall prematurely without reproducing—either a prey to their natural devourers, or sinking under disease, generally induced by want of nourishment, their place being occupied by the more perfect of their own kind, who are pressing on the means of subsistence . . . [The] progeny of the same parents, under great differences of circumstance, might, in several generations, even become distinct species, incapable of co-reproduction.”

    – In 1831! Wow. Thank you for telling me about this – never knew. The various parts of the idea were really in the air at that time, just waiting for folks . . . It’s fascinating to ponder why Darwin&Wallace – why them and why then. (That Matthew put it in a book called “On Naval Timber and Arboriculture” is a pretty big clue, the importance of naval power to 19thC Britain nowithstanding. (But that people were stumbling near the idea of natural selection back in ancient Greece . . . why not then? (Well, plenty of reasons, it’s just fun to think about)). Mendel had a similar problem, and Sprigg, the guy who discovered those weird Ediacaran creatures. . . you’d think there would be a crack team of scientists combing through piles of obscure journals, looking for the incredibly nifty needle in that papery haystack . . .

    ” Darwin insisted on gradualism: “natura non facit saltus” (nature doesn’t make jumps). This is inconsistent with his expectations”

    Darwin was a scientist, not a prophet (although that would be a cool fantasy/alternative history story); we’ve already established that he didn’t get everything right. It’s not an expectation that a scientist would get everything right. Science evolves, heh heh, etc. We can even argue about what gradualism is or could be . . .And really – how are the wittle finchies inconsistant with his expectations? Are small changes in beak shape and size that average out due to environmental conditions “making jumps?” What was Darwin exactly arguing for (and against)?

    “The more likely answer is along the lines that environmental factors affect development in an inheritable way: meaning that the finches’ genetic material has a built in mechanism allowing it to adapt to changing envirnomental conditions.”
    Jean-Baptiste rides again!
    Well, in a way, it does – DNA being somewhat error-prone, and sexual reproduction helps . . .
    It sounds like there’s some stuff suggesting some sort of small role for epigenetic inheritance (but I have no knowledge of the actual state, robustness, etc of this idea, and the controversy over Cairns’ work seems maybe to have led to an acceptance of the possibility that hostile conditions may lead to ‘adaptive mutagenesis’ in bacteria – the poor starving bacteria have more mutations, with several possible mechanisms (again, have no clue about current work – I’m just repeating what the internet tells me . . . ). So it may well be that this sort of thing does play a role in evolution. But dumping modern evolutionary theory for everything above fine-tuning and going all neo-Lamarckian? Where’s the evidence? How would this work? How do we test it? What results does it predict?

    So, he proposed a theory of panspermia–those aliens again”
    But where did the aliens come from?

    “we just simply have a hard time with an omnipotent being. It scares us.”
    Us? Really? I think it scares a few people, but us? But anyway, going from aliens (we know we’re here, it seems statistically likely, given what we assume – what’shisname’s formula – that something/somebody else might be elsewhere) to omnipotent beings is a very big jump indeed. We don’t have scientific knowledge of any omnipotent beings (many gods weren’t even considered omnipotent, but that’s neither here nor there).

    “One can’t but respect the hard work and serious thought that went into the writing of the Origins”
    Agreed. I just wish he could have found out about (and recognized the significance of) Mendel’s work – we would be decades ahead, at least in some respects. Darn it!

    “Hopefully science can recognize and accept this, and then move on to more fruitful theories.”
    Well, it generally tends to be all sniffy and require evidence for these things. And that would be . . .?

    “Darwinism, however, doesn’t seem logical. ID does seem logical.”.
    In many ways this is probably a major issue – the difference between seems logical and is logical. You know us humans aren’t very good at that. There was a very neat piece along these general lines in Tuesday’s NY Times opinion page . . . (not the scientist&religion one).

    “as we learn more and more about it, the answers should more and more become apparent.”
    I agree.

  30. 30
    Bombadill says:

    A little off topic, but it’s significant to consider the Kalam argument for God, which posits that God is the “uncaused first cause”. Only that which had a beginning requires a cause. God, by nature, is without a beginning, therefore he does not require a cause. To suggest that life was caused by a non-eternal, non-self-existant being, really just pushes the issue of origins back a step. You end up with an infinite regression of causes (which is really an infinite regression of effects). Thus, it’s quite logical to assert an eternal spiritual entity is the author of all matter.

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